This essay analyzes Carlos Bulosan’s writing in terms of the way he works todevelop an aesthetic that comprehends and cognitively maps the repetitive dynamicsof US and global colonial capitalism. More precisely, the essay examines howBulosan’s aesthetic practice both grapples with the question of how an individualand collective consciousness can grasp the systemic processes that conditionexperience and also how it fosters that consciousness in the way it representsthe relationships among experience, the larger class and colonial dynamics thatproduce that experience, and the ideological processes that intervene in ourcomprehension of those dynamics. In developing an aesthetic that aligns ideologyand experience and grasps the dynamics of the global colonial system, Bulosan’sfiction, this essay argues, generates a narrative of class struggle and a consciousnessthat grasps the national dimension of the Filipino working-class, comprehendingthe need for national liberation.The essay explores the way Bulosan’s political narratives work through andconfront ideological tensions between a facile internationalism and a more concretenational liberation politics in his fiction by deploying, at times, an innocent narratorwhose idealistic values and approach to the world are challenged through thatcharacter’s experiences of racial and economic injustice, violence, exploitation, anddeprivation. This technique allows Bulosan to articulate a utopian worldview, thatis, an ideal sense of what a world framed on principles of justice would entail, andalso to address the political and economic realities that betray that ideal and thus require repair and transformation through collective political struggle. Typically, inconstructing plots that move through innocence to experience, Bulosan works tocreate an aesthetic that aligns representation and the lived experience of Filipinos inthe United States and the Philippines in ways that highlight the national dimensionsof Filipino life and foster a national consciousness, challenging a premature orunder-theorized internationalism or universalism.
class consciousness; Filipino literature; internationalism; nationalism; utopianism; working-class literature